Need advice on Tung Oil

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by Verzila, Sep 24, 2019.

  1. Verzila

    Verzila Tele-Meister

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    I'm planning a tung oil finish on my current build. I'd be grateful for some advice.

    1. How many coats - I know this is subjective depending on what result you're looking for, but what results can I expect from different numbers of coats?
    How many coats would I need for a smooth satin finish? How many for a mirror finish?

    2. How often should I sand between coats?

    3. How long should I leave each coat before doing the next one?

    4. How long should I leave it to cure after the final coat?

    Many thanks
     
  2. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    Edit to remove my original comment - I thought the OP asked about TruOil which is an offshoot of trung oil which has had some modifications.

    I have only used tung oil on furniture - my oak amp cabinet is a good example. I only applied enough coats to protect it (4 or 5 or so) and made no attempt ad bringing it to any sort of fine polish.

    I will say that I think TruOil can be a viable guitar finish, I would keep the tung oil for furniture.
     

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    Last edited: Sep 24, 2019
  3. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    Also make sure that when the can says "tung oil" that it's really what's inside. Many formulations of wiping varnish or danish oil type finishes have "tung oil" on the label but aren't actually pure tung oil. Actually I'd recommend such a product (tung oil "finish") if you want to build any shine because they will have all the other ingredients necessary for varnish - that is in addition to oil there's a resin of some sort and solvent and driers. Just so you know what you're working with if you happen to buy actual pure tung oil.
     
  4. CapnCrunch

    CapnCrunch Friend of Leo's

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    Do you have a particular tung oil product that you are planning to use? Waterlox original is a great polymerized tung oil. I rub on 3 to 6 coats and let it sit 24 hours between coats. I use OOOO steel wool after the final coat with some paste wax, and it give you a finish slightly glossier than Satin. I don't sand or rub with steel wool between coats. This recipe will give you a finish that almost glows and it begs to be touched. It is a great finish for any project you are going to touch or handle, jewelry boxes, furniture and guitars etc. you can even finish hardwood floors with it.
     
  5. VintageSG

    VintageSG Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Tung oil is designed to test your patience. I can't remember how many -thin- coats I applied to mine, but it was many. I'd apply a coat, wait a day, apply a coat etc. Every few days, I'd take a wad of really fine steel wool, wet it with tung oil and lightly buff. When I decided that it was time to call it a day, I let it set for a week ( I think, this is going back some ) then polished it with old T-shirts until it gave a satin glow. It doesn't photograph well for me, or rather I am brimming with camera incompetence, but in the right light, it's worth every minute spent.

    If I build another, I'm going wipe-on tru oil.
     
  6. trapdoor2

    trapdoor2 Tele-Afflicted

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    I quit at 6 coats last time but I've seen folks use many, many more.

    I bought 100% Tung Oil from Rockler. Basically, one coat per day. It took me a couple of times to get it right. When they say wipe on, let it sit and then wipe off...they mean wipe it off. If there is any wetness to the coat, it will not catalyze. BTDT...sand it all off and start again.

    I only took the 0000 steel wool to it if I saw dust or rough areas. After about the 3rd application, I stopped doing that.

    I was impatient, so after 6 coats, I hit it with several coats of super-blonde shellac (via French Polish method) and then finished up with two coats of wipe on poly-gel. Turned out excellent, I think.
     
  7. natec

    natec TDPRI Member

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    As someone else mentioned - confirm whether you are using 100% tung oil or a blend of varnish with tung oil included. Straight tung oil is less common and much more expense where I live. I used 'watco' brand tung oil finish which is a blend. I was very happy with it.

    1. I did 15, but you won't know until you get there. Each piece of wood is a little different. You'll know to stop when you look at it (dry) under good lighting and it looks good to you. I sanded with 400 grit paper in between each coat, then went over it with tack cloth after the last coat. Mine is 'satin-y'. Prior experience with Tables and Gunstocks told me that the difference between satin and mirror is a tremendous amount of more work. Up to you.

    2. I may not be tracking here... but once in between each coat is what I did. If you skip sanding between two applications, you're just making the coverage thicker. As someone above noted, a higher number of thinner coats worked best for me.

    3. Look at the container your using to be certain - each climate will be a little different. For me in Portland Oregon in the Summer I allowed for 24 hours and was fine. Trying to sand before something is fully cured will gum up your sandpaper. If it's fully cured it will come off more dusty.

    4. For me.. same as in between coats - 24 hours. More wouldn't hurt, but I'm not patient.​

    Have fun.
    Nate
     
  8. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Yes, for me pure tung oil seemed like a cool idea for my second guitar finish, but I came to understand why it didn't work like the first one using Formby's Tung Oil Finish—the Formby's has those extra ingredients like driers. I ended up buying a drier to add to the pure tung oil, which helped, but I'd have been better off in the end with Formby's formula.

    Same here! I'd like to try Tru Oil, or do the Formby's again.
     
  9. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

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    The Formby product is a varnish with an effective marketing name in the title. It's not tung oil but has a bit of tung oil added to the varnish. This is consistent with many similar products that have tung oil in the label as mentioned above; some might have tung oil in there or some might have tung oil in the mixture before it's cooked into varnish and some...don't have any tung oil in them at all, other than on the label. Pure tung oil is a nice finish for certain situations, but I agree with another poster that because of the time required to use it, it can be a challenge for something like a guitar. It takes many, many coats rubbed on (you have to wipe off any excess) and dry time is glacial. Cure time is even longer.
     
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  10. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    It was my understanding that TruOil was a tung oil that had been heated to 500 degrees (F) or so to make it cross link as it drys to make it harder. (I'm far from an expert at this and going from memory). I've used it on a couple of guitars, I wasn't impressed with the results. I have used Formby's "Tung Oil" on furniture projects - I think it gives a nice fairly durable finish for something like book shelves or speaker cabinets - here it is being applied to an oak amp cab.

    IMG_3010.JPG

    I would not consider it for a guitar.

    This isn't a very good picture but it does show the amp ("tung oil"), a pine wood tele clone (TruOil) and a LP clone (lacquer).

    IMG_3034.JPG
     
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  11. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Too many different products with "Tung Oil" in the name to give one set of instructions for all of them.
    I've used a lot of the products, and generally apply one coat per day, seldom if ever sanding, because they need to be wiped and buffed numerous times after applying, for maybe an hour or two, after which the coat is smooth and low luster.

    AFAIK pure Tung Oil is not a catalyzed varnish product, and will soak in but not really dry into a hard finish.
    As mentioned, Tru Oil is more of a hard finish product than pure tung oil.

    Note that Pure Tung Oil may be a brand name on a product, while pure tung oil is just plain ol non catalyzed tung oil that really requires other compounds to make it into a hard finishing product.

    Plenty os companies might sell a can of stuff labeled "Pure Tung Oil", but they may actually adulterate it to facilitate the functioning as a finish, as opposed to an ingredient in a finish.
    I bought some cans of actual pure tung oil years ago and the stuff would not dry and harden, the way Tru Oil and other "Tung Oil Finish" products do.

    I have one guitar body I finished with "Tung Oil Finish" in 1980 that still has a finish, but is beat to hell and another I finished with probably a different "Tung Oil Finish" in around '87 that looks nice but never ended up as a complete guitar.
    It's been kicking around the workbench area ever since, so it gets knocked around.
    I've read that most of the Tung Oil Finish" products sold at home improvement stores actually contain polyurethane, and using these products the result really looks like this is true.

    But I've also been told here on the TDPRI that this is false, that no "Tung Oil Finish" products contain any poly at all.
    I also find that a can from five or ten years ago is not the same in use as a can from this year.
    EPA regs keep changing what goes in the can for volatiles, which are what make the product catalyze and harden.

    IOW, IDK!
     
  12. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

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    Yea, it's a moving target for sure with the constant reformulation. I'm pretty glad I rarely use solvent-based/oil-based products! It would drive me crazy with the inconsistency and getting a good finish requires consistency in product and application.
     
  13. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I believe that TruOil is no longer polymerized tung oil and now just lists linseed oil in the materials data sheet.
     
  14. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Polymerized oils are the primary resin content of varnishes. Depending on the process, some are more of a penetrating oil; others harder drying varnishes.

    "Tung oil" is such a juggled/scrambled term that you really need to read/understand the MSDS, read the product data sheet, and buy the smallest quantities you can to to tests on scrap wood before starting on the guitar.

    They list "modified oil" which most likely is a proprietary term for a different polymerized oil - i.e. varnish. Could be tung oil or could be something else.
     
  15. CapnCrunch

    CapnCrunch Friend of Leo's

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    This is from the Waterlox website. You might have taken a look at what it actually is before speculating and guessing. They classify their product as a varnish. From the perspective of a person rubbing a finish on by hand, whether it's a varnish, and whether it is Tung Oil based is probably not all that important. The bottom line is this, and I can say this from personal knowledge because I've actually used this product on many different types of wood and in different contexts, from wood floors to jewelry boxes, it both penetrates and builds a hard coating. It is an easy finish to apply and get great results. I prefer it to TruOil in application, appearance and feel.

    To the OP, try it if you want, don't if you don't, but don't be dissuaded by whether it is 100% Tung Oil or whether it is a varnish a lacquer or a coat of piss.

    https://waterlox.com/project-help/guide?id=55d7f899-9e95-430b-9788-6ee59ed27e30&q=
     
  16. Luthi3rz

    Luthi3rz Tele-Meister

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    I was just wonder why someone would use Tung Oil? What's the benefit?
     
  17. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

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    Because they like the look and feel of a drying oil finish like tung oil or BLO...which is nice for some kinds of projects.
     
  18. Telekarster

    Telekarster Tele-Meister

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    Interestingly, I just used tung oil for the very first time... in all the years I've done wood working. Never had a need until I built a guitar for a good friend of mine as a gift recently, and he's a lightening fast rock player and doesn't care for laquer on his necks. So... I decided to use tung oil to see how that would work. He LOVES the guitar so I guess I must've did it right ;) Having said all that: on dry maple (after sanding with 240 - 400 grit) it took me at least 4 heavy coats, 1 per 24hr period = 4 days, to get a satisfactory finish. Then I buffed it with 100% soft cotton cloth, followed by 100% silk cloth. I didn't sand between coats, maybe I should've? But, it turned out pretty well for my project all the same. Hope that helps...

    Safety tip = remember tung oil can spontainiously combust! So... be careful with your oily rags etc. and properly dispose of them. Don't let them lay around... look up how to dispose of them and be safe.
     
  19. jkingma

    jkingma Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Straight tung oil does not harden completely. You want to use polymerized tung oil... which is very similar to (but not exactly like) Tru-oil. I've finished many guitars and necks with it and have been very happy with the results and durability.
     
  20. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

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    This is true for any oil based product; tung oil, BLO, wipe on varnish, whatever. Dispose of the rags carefully...don't just throw them in the regular trash.
     
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